Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Publisher spurns Harvard sophomore apology

Associated Press

NEW YORK - Teenage author Kaavya Viswanathan has acknowledged taking material from fellow novelist Megan McCafferty, but says the borrowing was an accident. McCafferty's publisher doesn't believe her.

"We think there are simply too many instances of `borrowing' for this to have been unintentional," Steve Ross, senior vice president and publisher of the Crown Publishing Group, told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Viswanathan's publisher, Little, Brown and Company, issued a statement later Tuesday, defending the author.

"We do believe Kaavya. She has apologized, publicly and profusely, for any difficulties that may have come from her actions," Little, Brown publisher Michael Pietsch said in the statement. "We believe that this is an unfortunate but honest mistake, and we intend to give Ms. Viswanathan every opportunity to correct the situation."

Viswanathan, a 19-year-old sophomore at Harvard University, was just 17 when she signed a reported six-figure, two-book deal with Little, Brown. Her first novel, "How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life," came out in March to widespread publicity. DreamWorks has already acquired film rights.

But readers of McCafferty who had read Viswanathan spotted similarities to McCafferty's books, which include "Sloppy Firsts" and "Second Helpings," and alerted McCafferty, who in turn notified her publisher. Examples of questionable passages were published Sunday on the Web site of the Harvard Crimson.

Viswanathan released a statement Monday apologizing for her borrowings, saying that she was a "huge fan" of McCafferty and "wasn't aware of how much I may have internalized Ms. McCafferty's words." She promised to revise her book, a process Little, Brown says has already started.

Ross said lawyers representing the two publishers have been discussing the controversy and suggested that Little, Brown pull the novel until changes have been made. But Pietsch said that while the publisher would not reprint any more copies of the current version, there were no plans to withdraw it.

"She will revise her novel to remove any inappropriate similarities, and we will reissue it with those changes at the earliest opportunity," said Pietsch, who has previously acknowledged that several weeks will be needed just to print the new copies.

Viswanathan's novel tells the story of Opal, a hard-driving teen from New Jersey who earns straight A's in high school but who gets rejected from Harvard because she forgot to have a social life. Opal's father concocts a plan code-named HOWGAL (How Opal Will Get A Life) to get her past the admissions office.

McCafferty's books follow a heroine named Jessica, a New Jersey girl who excels in high school but struggles with her identity and longs for a boyfriend. McCafferty is a former editor at Cosmopolitan

In a recent interview with The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J., Viswanathan was asked about books that might have influenced her novel. "Nothing I read gave me the inspiration," she responded.

On Tuesday, Crown issued a statement saying that Viswanathan's apology was "deeply troubling and disingenuous.

"We have documented more than 40 passages from Kaavya Viswanathan's recent publication ... that contain identical language and/or common scene or dialogue structure from Megan McCafferty's first two books. This extensive taking from Ms. McCafferty's books is nothing less than an act of literary identity theft."

Little, Brown gave Viswanathan's novel a first printing of 100,000, the publisher said. According to Crown, McCafferty's books have more than 400,000 copies in print. Her third novel, "Charmed Thirds," was released two weeks ago.

"This has been an enormous distraction for Megan," Ross said. "It's been a very, very difficult and devastating couple of weeks for her."

AP Wire | 04/25/2006 | Publisher spurns Harvard sophomore apology

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


"That's my calling," she [Meg Cabot] says. "To put the blowjob back in literature."

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Collecting lust

The 46th annual New York Antiquarian Book Fair opens today. Among the shelves of rare first editions and bespectacled booksellers, writer and would-be collector Eve Claxton discovers, to her surprise, a distinct whiff of glamour

Eve Claxton
Friday April 21, 2006

Guardian Unlimited

It started 15 years ago when I was an English student, scouring the university secondhand bookshop for the gem-coloured spines of a series of poetry books first published by Penguin in the 1960s. Although they cost just a few pounds each, there was something alluringly addictive about collecting these paperbacks with their lovely covers. Although I now own over 50 of them, I've worked out that I'll need twice that number to complete my collection. I think I'll find it difficult to go to my grave without doing so.
Since moving from England to New York, where my secondhand Penguins appear only very rarely, the search has become all the more enticing. Still, it's not the quest for missing volumes that will compel me to join the multitudes of book collectors at the 46th annual New York Antiquarian Book Fair this weekend. The vendors who pitch their stalls here are mostly selling the kinds of books I can't hope to afford - rare first editions, inscribed copies, ancient manuscripts and literary ephemera often at extraordinarily prohibitive prices. But none of that precludes an innocent spectator's pleasure.

The fair - the oldest in the country - lures nearly 200 booksellers from across the US and around the world to the Park Avenue Seventh Regiment Armory, an imposing red-brick building often used for art fairs, that occupies an entire square block of the Upper East Side. If you can spare a long afternoon, there's no more engrossing pursuit than roaming between the bookseller's stalls, marvelling at the various offerings and wondering if the man asking questions about the autographed first edition of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass (a treasure from last year's fair) is a serious collector or just a fellow ogler.

Although the equivalent fairs in London and California are important fixtures in the booklover's calendar, there's something about New York that inspires an additional fondness and excitement in sellers and clients alike. "This is the fair that, for whatever reason, has the most buzz to it," explains Kevin Kelly, a dealer with JN Bartfield Rare Books and, at 34, one of the fair's younger vendors. "It's where you'll find the biggest concentration of clients and dealers. What happens is that that booksellers tend to save up their best material to showcase in New York."

By way of example, Bartfield's prize specimens this year will include a 1685 fourth folio of Shakespeare's plays, priced in six figures. Other coveted editions on offer include first printings of Jane Austen's Emma and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, a leaf of a manuscript for a duet in the hand of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and a printer's proof of On the Road by Jack Kerouac (all of which, needless to say, will set you back several thousands). At the other end of the scale, it is possible to seek out books for under $100, if you're in the market for, say, a first edition of Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities. (In a bid to encourage those with lighter wallets, the fair's organizers are offering a reduced entrance fee to the under-30s.)

Although the phrase "antiquarian book fair" - even one usually ranked as the best in the world - doesn't immediately call to mind the word "glamorous", this year's gathering was given a decidedly more fashionable edge thanks to its opening night party which took place last night. The evening, which benefits the New York Public Library, attracted the kind of fabulous crowd not usually associated with the typically tweedy world of rare book collecting. Event designer David E Monn, better known for creating the extravagant annual Costume Institute ball at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, transformed a corner of the otherwise barebones Armory space into a luxurious "private library", its walls lined with 5,000 rare books. Bespectacled booksellers mingled with gilded New York society types in one of the pleasing clashes of culture that the city so regularly offers.

And rumour has it that collecting is acquiring a more youthful and dashing image of late, at least in New York. Last month's American Vogue described out-of-print book collecting as "all the rage"; you can buy stunning copies of rare and elegant fashion and art books on the top floor of the fancy Manhattan department store Bergdorf Goodman; The Core Club, a new private members club, recently unveiled a members' library filled with signed copies and first editions of literary classics (the collection was assembled by the young literary editor Lea Carpenter, who also co-chaired the opening night of the fair.) In New York, the much-discussed demise of the book in the digital age seems only to be stimulating bibliophilia.

Dealer John McWhinnie, an erudite 38-year-old who runs an uptown book gallery, notes that modern literary editions and photography monographs have doubled in price over the past two or three years. He's at pains to point out, however, that rare book collecting is a very different pursuit from the kind of status-buying that usually goes on in the world of New York art or fashion. "Books tend to be the most personal of collections," he explains. "Someone who buys a book, even a priceless one, is likely to do so because of an intimate connection with that author or work, not because it's a trophy to be displayed."

Does this mean that collectors of expensive books are motivated by the same basic desires as someone who buys sets of cheap paperbacks, for instance? "Most serious collectors buy for love, not investment," McWhinnie agrees. "It's rare that a client will want to resell a book, even when its value has increased considerably." This much I understand. My paperbacks may be almost worthless in monetary terms, but even so, they're probably still the first things I'd save in case of a fire.

· The 46th annual New York Antiquarian Book Fair, sponsored by the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America, runs from April 21-23 at the Park Avenue Armory, 643 Park Avenue.

· Eve Claxton is the editor of The Book of Life: A Compendium of the Best Autobiographical and Memoir Writing published by Ebury Press

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